President Bush Visits Great Smoky Mountains

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   April 22, 2005
Contact:   Andrea Keller Helsel, NPCA, 202-454-3332


President Bush Visits Great Smoky Mountains

- We are pleased that President Bush is visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park today and celebrating the important and growing role of volunteers in protecting our national parks. The administration has appropriately and effectively encouraged volunteerism in the parks, and we applaud those efforts.

Unfortunately, this park is afflicted with two serious problems that go beyond what volunteers can do—insufficient funding and polluted air. Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a $182-million backlog of maintenance needs. This and other parks across the country don’t have the funding necessary to fix crumbling roads and bridges, restore historic buildings, combat invasive species, and other resource protection and backlog needs. Sen. Lamar Alexander and Rep. John Duncan, the president’s hosts today, are sponsoring important legislation in Congress that can make an appreciable difference in our parks. If passed, the bipartisan National Park Centennial Act would provide funding from the general treasury and from a voluntary check-off on federal income tax returns to enable individual Americans to contribute directly to the preservation of the nation’s heritage. We urge the president to join Senators Alexander, McCain, Lieberman, Salazar, and Feinstein, Congressman Duncan, and other park champions in Congress in supporting the bipartisan Centennial Act, which builds on his successful efforts to empower Americans to care for our national parks.

We applaud the president for requesting $1.8 billion over six years to enable parks such as the Great Smoky Mountains to implement road and bridge repairs and alternative transportation projects. Unfortunately, this request has been tied up in the stalled reauthorization of the transportation bill. Our parks can’t afford to wait. We encourage Congress to embrace the president’s request and approve the transportation bill—the best opportunity to reduce the parks’ burgeoning backlog this year.

Great Smoky Mountains is also the most polluted national park in the nation. Emissions from power plants and other factories that have avoided installing modern pollution controls drastically reduce its scenic vistas, damage its plants, and are unhealthy for park visitors. This same pollution makes the Smokies a less-attractive tourist destination, potentially reducing tourism dollars spent in the region. We urge the administration to enforce the Clean Air Act to clean up this harmful pollution by requiring each and every major, outdated park polluter to install the “best available retrofit technology” to reduce their emissions for the health of our parks, our families, and our communities.

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